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Matilda: Week 1 - Building Drive.

In the last post we discussed some of the things I noticed in the first two days after Matilda arrived.

Care should be taken when assessing new dogs in your care because everything is new, and it takes a lot of bandwidth to process new stuff, and it can be a stressful time. So, just because I saw these things in Matilda did not mean they were ‘real’.

I did however, act as though they were! It never hurts to build play and food drive with a new dog!

Food, interactive play, and cuddling/petting, are where relationships are made and training begins. If I don’t have these, I cannot begin to hope to change behavior!


So, I went right to work! When Matilda comes out of her crate rested and ready to play, I step in with a toy and work in play. I want to teach her to persevere, that here’s where she’s allowed to have conflict and be totally free. At first I could keep her engaged for seconds.

Then for a minute.

Then for two minutes.

By week‘s end she was staying in the game, shoving the toy at me for more, and really getting into it.

The only rule is: don’t bite me. She was quick to learn (or maybe had already learned) that biting the human wind the game. I stopped that by simply shoving her away and holding her off for about thirty seconds, with a quiet, nope! After the brief time out play could resume. Matilda is so handler soft that this minor correction caused her to quit the game for sometimes a few moments before I could entice her back in.


Play is important, it builds resilienc, drive, problem solving and more, but for training new behaviors I need food drive.

When Matilda worked for food she‘d work for maybe ten bites, and then wander off. And by ’work’ I mean the simplest of attention games (look at me, mark, drop food on floor, look at me, mark, drop foid on floor, etc....).

So after she came in from her last potty before bed, I’d put up all the dogs and put all of her dinner in a bowl mixed with some random yummies. Drop a kibble, look at me, mark, reward on floor, etc... If she walked off, the game ended. I’d take a handful of her dinner and use it to put her in her crate for bed.

In the morning, after potty, I’d take last night’s supper and some breakfast and begin again. Drop a kibble, look at me, mark, feed, etc....

If she stuck with the game we’d move to harder tasks: orientation game (throw the kibble, look at me, mark, throw a kibble in the other direction, etc....

By week’s end she was willing to work steadily for 5 minutes (about all I’ll ask from a 7 mo puppy) a few times a day.

Food drive can be trained! Play drive can be trained! (Though play drive is harder and takes more skill!)

Now, that we spent the first week learning to work for me, we can really begin our journey!

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